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Thursday, October 28, 2010

"What it means for people to be citizens" - Report of Salon with Gavan McCormack 「市民」たることとは―ガバン・マコーマックさんを迎えてのサロン 報告

"What it means for people to be citizens"

- Report of Fall Special Peace Philosophy Salon with Gavan McCormack

Thank you for sharing the special evening with Gavan McCormack on October 16, to those twenty-five or so adults and several children, at the fall special Peace Philosophy Salon, "Battle of Okinawa 2010: Japan-US Relations at a Crossroad." Gavan, based in Canberra, Australia, a dedicated scholar on Japan and East Asia the last five decades, author of numerous books including Client State: Japan in the American Embrace (2007), paid a special visit to Vancouver and Victoria, after giving a talk at Portland State University in Oregon. He gave two talks at the University of Victoria on October 18, and our Salon was the only event in Vancouver, so those of us who were there that night were very fortunate.

Gavan talked  about the Cold War assumption and security structure that still underpins the Japan-US relation, supported the "client-state" mentality that still persists in the Japanese government; the failed attempt to change that structure by Hatoyama and DPJ government after the historic regime change of 2009; concern over the "deepening alliance" between the two countries in the 50th anniversary of the revision of ANPO (Japan-US Security Treaty), and Okinawans' 14-year resistance against the two governments' attempt to replace the obsolete and dangerous MCAS Futenma with a new, upgraded Marine airbase and military port in Henoko/Oura-Bay, an eco-sensitive area in Northeastern shore of the island. "There is no precedent in modern Japanese history for an entire prefecture to unite, as does Okinawa today, in saying 'No' to the central state authorities," Gavan emphasizes as he talked about the ever strong opposition to the new base within Okinawa. "Okinawa’s history over especially the past 14 years constitutes a lesson to the rest of Japan in what it means for people to be citizens." There is much to ponder on this statement.

Gavan also touched upon the debate over the ship collision incident near the group of islets and rocks, called "Diaoyu" 釣魚 in Chinese and "Senkaku" 尖閣 in Japanese. We will summarize on that part of the talk later on.

Here are comments from the participants. 
"The evening with Professor Gavan McCormack was an intellectually stimulating and engaging event that was also timely with subject matter of immense current importance.  It was great to basically have a full lecture by Gavan on the issue of the disputes over the Okinawan bases, particularly Henoko, and also the contestation between Japan and China over Senkaku Island (as called by Japan).  The talk showed the relevance of these issues to local people caught up in larger global processes, as well as its importance to Asia and the world more generally.  It was good to see so many people interested enough to come out for this event on a Saturday night, and to see many familiar faces.  While interfacing with Gavan on the issues, it allowed a sense of intimacy even though there were a large number of people who came, and a chance for more informal interaction as well.  I particularly appreciated the inclusion of the environmental issues and the effects on life forms on the islands or waters surrounding them, which is less often reported in press accounts, but also of major importance." - Millie Creighton

"The talk from 'citizen' Gavan McCormack is extremely rich in knowledge, reasoning and wisdom. The question he raised on the double standard of citizen democratic movements--why Okinawan's non-violent demonstration was muted in North American media--brings serious challenge to the policy makers here. This dilemma is hard to justify. The question about what "Citizenship" means also touches on the fundamentals of democracy. While we studies democracies we often focus on the factual sides of the definition of citizenship, such as suffrage across gender, ethnic, social classes, etc. However, it is important to emphasize the obligation and responsibility of citizens." - Arc (Zhen) Han

"I learned a lot from Gavan's talk. What impressed me the most was Gavan's depth of his knowledge based on his research in BOTH Japanese and English material. He is a TRUE scholar who examines data and makes his OWN analysis. Unlike many academics in the field who write/borrow somebody else's interpretation and claim that they are competent in Japanese material." - Yuko Shibata

"Gavan san is an excellent scholar familiar with the Japanese history and politics. There are some other academics who may be as knowlegeable as he is, but I felt something more: 'sympathique' in him. He is an approachable person for us, non-specialists and I can see that he tries to communicate with us. As Gavan noted, the salon meeting was a good mixture of different ethnic groups and age groups. Satoko san, we should encourage him to come back again to our salon meeting." - Tatsuo Kage

"Thank you again for organizing the inspiring and engaging event with Gavan.  I really enjoyed the Q&A part in which we have very good discussion and exchange of opinion.... Frankly speaking, I am not so optimist about the relationship between China and Japan which is complicated with historical wounds and new hatred.  But I still believe people like you and me doing our parts will at least make some difference." - Thekla Lit

"For myself, the most meaningful things and what I was able to follow without a problem that Gavan was talking about were the territorial disputes between Japan and China over Senkaku/Daioyu Island. I have been following this issue and other territorial disputes with Japan. It was great to hear the discussion after the talk about this issue. I believe this issue is a major player in the future Sino-Japanese relations. It was also great to hear and have such a discussion with so many different sides speaking. It was really something unique in the sense of who came to the gathering. There were both sides represented in the discussion and then Gavan was like the mediator. It was also very enlightening to here about Okinawa and the idea of saving Article 9 and the Futenma military base issue." - Aaron Lev

"Thank you very much for organizing such an interesting event at your beautiful salon. An idea of striving to form a collective regional community throughout Asia in terms of an alternative measure to reduce strong US influence in Japan (in particular, in relation to the issues of the Okinawa US Naval Base) was interesting. Although Japan still has the unresolved war responsibility issues with its neighbor countries, and the number of regional blocks in Asia is very few and only focued on non-political agendas, this idea seems persuasive with the fast rising of China. " - Eun-bok (Alexa) Kim  
"Thank-you very much! And thanks again for a wonderful opportunity to meet with Gavan and have a serious discussion about military bases in Okinawa. I hope the Peoples Movement in Okinawa is able to curtail the military plans of the US and Japanese governments. If so, it will have benefitted from your efforts!" - Donald Burton

For Gavan's new paper on which his talk was based, see HERE.
For more of Gavan's articles on Japan Focus: Asia-Pacific Journal, see HERE.
For the "salon host" Satoko's articles on Okinawa on Japan Focus: Asia-Pacific Journal, see HERE.

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